Drones praised by police as machete suspects and cannabis farm tracked down
Police bosses have praised the value of drones after they helped catch two Black Country machete suspects and revealed a major cannabis farm.
A drone pilot helped in the arrest of two teenagers in Dudley last month after officers received reports of them armed with machetes.
One of the suspects, aged 16, was arrested at the scene in Beech Green, Wren's Nest, on the afternoon of June 13 but another ran off, jumping garden fences.
One of the drones spotted the 19-year-old trying to lie low on a school rooftop and the pilot guided a police dog to him.
The man was left needing hospital treatment for a dog bite but was not found with a knife and there was not enough evidence to link him to a nearby stolen car.
The 16-year-old from Wrens Nest charged with possessing a knife in public and is due to appear at Dudley Youth Court on July 15.
Meanwhile a drone deployed with a thermal imagine camera in Willenhall picked up a large heat source coming from a disused pub.
Officers then found a cannabis factory inside with 600 plants and drugs with an estimated street value of around £500,000.
West Midlands Police started using the drones a 24-7 resource last October and have now completed around 300 flying hours, helping with the arrest of almost 100 suspects.
Sergeant Keith Bennett, the force's lead officer for drones, said: “They have proved invaluable. They have helped in the search for more than 250 missing people and also assisted in the arrest of more than 90 crime suspects.
“They can cover ground so much more quickly than officers on foot. It’s no exaggeration to say they may well have saved lives of missing people, and have also saved lots of police time locating suspects.
“Much like a helicopter, drones are equipped with high resolution, thermal cameras but are a lower cost option with a smaller carbon footprint."
The force has seven aircraft − six DJI Mavics and one DJI Matrice − and 22 trained pilots.
They have been used to gather intelligence on illegal street racers and drugs factories, and also helped keep people safe during large protests and sporting events.
But the drones also have other uses, as Sgt Bennett explained.
“We have also used imagery from drones to create aerial reconstructions of serious crime scenes which are used in court as part of prosecutions," he added.
“The images give juries a clear picture of the crime scene and help them understand the prosecution case."
Deputy police and crime commissioner, Waheed Saleem said: “Our drones, paid for using money previously seized from criminals, are now helping bring others to justice.
“They are an excellent addition to police kit in the fight against crime and can be used when it isn’t practical to have a helicopter near a scene
“Drones are being used to keep the public safe and catch criminals using proceeds from ill-gotten gains of others."
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